When NFL owners approved a rule Tuesday that allows teams to start a drive at the 25-yard line when a fair catch is signaled on a kickoff, the league knew a backlash was coming.
“It’s never easy for special teams coaches. They have trained him in a certain way. They think they have an advantage, so they won’t be happy with changes like this,” Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, told NFL Network.
“But the changes needed to be made because, in our minds, we have the data that said they needed to be made.”
And backlash ensued, with the Kansas City Chiefs tight end travis kelce and Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jason Kelce breaking the rule on the “New Heights” podcast.
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“I think this is absolutely stupid,” Travis Kelce said. “I don’t think it’s making the game any safer. I think it’s making it more boring and it takes a lot of the excitement out of the opening play of the game. This is crazy.”
“We’re getting closer to getting rid of special teams,” added Jason Kelce. “All that’s left now is the punt. When is someone not going to catch it and take the ball at the 25-yard line? Unless it’s a really bad punt, right?”
The rule was passed with player safety in mind, as concussion rates have increased over the past two seasons on kickoffs, according to ESPN.
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“The data is very clear on the highest injury rate on that play,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We’ve been talking about it for a number of years. We haven’t made much progress on this play. This was a step that we feel was appropriate to address that. But we have a lot more work to do on how to continue to evolve going forward. Can we continue to maintain Is this played in an exciting way but, more importantly, in a safe way?”
The reaction to the new rule of the Kelce brothers came a day later Andy Reid, head coach of the Chiefs he said he sees the kick-off rule as a path to “flag football”.
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“My thing is, where does it stop, right?” Reid told NFL Network. “We started taking pieces and we’ll see how this goes. But you don’t want to take too many pieces away, or you’ll be playing flag football.”
The new rule will be in effect for at least one year.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report